Giving Localities Help They Need

Discovery of asbestos in much of the material used to construct the old school building now being used by Belmont village government is more than the “environmental disaster” described by Mayor Stan Sobel. As he and other village officials are painfully aware, it could be a fiscal disaster, too.

Village Council members voted in July to have the building, which has fallen into disrepair, demolished. That will cost about $55,000.

But then, it was learned asbestos is present in much of the material, including plaster on walls, in the structure. Abating that problem could cost another $184,358.

As the situation stands, there is no reason for special concern about health and safety. As long as most asbestos-bearing material is left in place, it is relatively safe. But the building needs to be razed, and that process could release some of the asbestos.

Having to pay nearly $240,000 to demolish the building would be a budget-buster for the small village’s municipal government. Sobel and other officials hope to get help, perhaps in the form of state and federal grants, with the asbestos abatement project.

State officials, who have some funding available to assist with such needs, should look favorably on Belmont’s plea for help.

So should the federal government, obviously.

Washington could and should do more to help local governments with asbestos abatement work, which is becoming quite common. But reportedly, a comprehensive bill on the matter is stalled in Congress over questions about liability.

Come on. The federal government pumps billions of dollars a year into local and state initiatives, some of which are created not because there is any real need for them, but because Washington has grant money available for the types of projects officials there want to see.

Meanwhile, small towns and counties find their budgets squeezed because they cannot get assistance for real needs, such as asbestos abatement.

A comprehensive look at how the federal government returns our money to us in the form of grants ought to be undertaken. Need — not social engineering dictated in Washington — should be the guiding factor. Providing more money for asbestos projects such as that in Belmont would be a good place to start.